"One of the key constraints on the pace of technological innovation is the range of possibility that inventors dare to explore. Max Tech and Beyond is one way that DOE encourages our country's inventors to explore a larger space of clean energy technology possibility."

-Dr. Robert Van Buskirk, Initiator of the competition

Competition Objectives

The Max Tech and Beyond Design Competition for Ultra-Low-Energy-Use Appliances and Equipment supports faculty-lead student design teams at U.S. universities to design, build, and test ultra efficient product prototypes to reduce energy consumption in buildings and/or prototypes that greatly reduce the cost of such ultra-efficient products. The dual objectives of the Competition are to support the development of next-generation prototypes and the next generation of scientists and engineers who will design them.

Management and Sponsorship

The Design Competition is managed by the Efficiency Standards Group (EES) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and funded through the DOE's Building Technologies Office (BTO).


The five judges for this year's teams are: Antonio Bouza, Joanna Mauer, Valerie Thomas, Benoit Lebot, and Barry Murphy. Their bios can be found here.

Competition Overview

The Design Competition is run on an Academic Calendar. In Spring a Request for Proposals (RFP) is sent to engineering, physical science, energy programs at universities throughout the U.S. Teams must consist of a faculty team advisor in a suitable field of study and at least three undergraduate and/or graduate students. Larger student teams are preferred. Senior engineering design teams are highly encouraged to apply. Proposals are submitted by the faculty team advisor and reviewed during the summer. Proposals must make a credible argument that their innovations will result in at least 5% energy savings over current best-on-market products or reduce the cost of ultra-efficient products by at least 20%. Selected teams receive up to $24,000 in support. The teams design, build, and test their prototypes during the academic year. The Competition culminates in a National Webinar in late Spring, at which student present the results. Final reports are reviewed an submitted by the faculty team advisor during the summer. The Competition is judged by a panel of energy efficiency experts. The winning team is announced by the end of summer.

Go to the How to Apply page for the most up to date instructions and RFP.


If you have a question that is not answered on this site or here, please feel free to contact us.

1.      What is the competition proposal deadline??

Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis. See Apply for specific final deadlines and process for submission.

2.      What are the proposal requirements?

See last year's RFP (minimal requirements and evaluation criteria)

3.      When will teams be selected?

Prototype proposals are reviewed and selected on a rolling basis. Final team selections decisions will be announced no later than mid-August.

4.      Who provides the funding for this competition?

Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and the Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Program.

5.      What are the competition deliverables?

See last year's RFP

6.      When does the competition end?

May-June 2015 (at the completion of the academic year once all deliverables are received).

7.      What are the required qualifications for lead faculty advisors?

The lead faculty advisor must be an active faculty member at the contracting university.  They are required to be fully engaged with the students throughout the competition and participate with the LBNL management and mentoring team as necessary.

8.      What products qualify for the competition?

The targeted market segments for new prototype development are stationary appliances and equipment that typically consume energy in and around residential and commercial buildings. Proposals cannot focus on mobile sources of energy consumption (transportation), building design, or energy generation. However they can incorporate building-integrated design and integrated renewables (e.g. solar assist).

9.      What kinds of technical innovations or modifications should be explored?

Prototypes eligible for consideration will have technical innovations that:

Significantly (≥ 5%) reduce energy consumption of the most efficient appliance/equipment model currently on the market.


Significantly (≥20%) reduce the cost to build and sell the most efficient appliance/equipment model currently on the market.

Modifying a current high-performing appliance, building a new prototype, and/or overall management of energy supply via automated controls, behavior, integration, or hybridization are all examples of potential options.   

10. Can students apply?

Yes, if they have identified a team and an active lead faculty member supports the effort fully. Please note in your proposal if it is a student based innovation. Both undergraduates and graduate students can apply.  Post-docs can co-lead, but they cannot apply. 

11. Does a fully functional prototype need to be built?

No, if it is not plausible. However, the team must devise a way to demonstrate in the laboratory that the technological innovation significantly reduces energy use and has the potential for future use in appliances.

12. Is there a limit on the number of faculty or post docs that can participate?

No. However, one faculty member must be designated the lead and it is the norm that only one co-lead and/or post doc support the students.

13. Is there a limit on the number of students that can participate?

No. However, at least three (3) students must participate from beginning to end and one student must be designated the lead and another, a back-up lead.

14. Can individual students participate for only one semester?

Yes, if they are partaking in a senior design course or working in a laboratory for only one semester and it is approved by the Faculty lead.

15. Can individual students participate in more than one team in the competition?

Yes, but they cannot be the lead student on more than one team.

16. Can students from different  departments be a part of the same team?

Yes. The team can be composed of students from any suitable background (i.e. STEM fields).

17. If more than one prototype design is to be run through the same design class should you submit more than one proposal?

Yes, you should submit one proposal for each project/technical innovation as each one will be reviewed separately for funding.

18. How much travel is required?

No travel is required during the academic year.  Travel requirements and budget modifications will occur if you are selected to attend an entrepreneurship workshop or part of a winning team selected for showcasing the prototype(s) in the summer or fall following the end of the competition. Exceptions may be allowed with pre-approval if the travel is for education/training purposes related to the work.

19. Is a detailed budget required for the proposals?

A cost proposal is required.  The cost proposal estimate should be as thorough as possible, as it will be relied upon to develop the project budget.  We expect the majority of costs to be from student RA/tuition assistance, equipment, materials, and supplies; although consultant fees, tech, Post-doc and faculty summer salaries, based on percentages of effort may also be costs.  See the RFP for further information. Project funding is not a grant, thus costs are to be incurred in accordance with your submitted cost proposal. 

20. If selected, are there mandatory meetings and status reports?

Yes, there are three status reports and one final report required, as well as four mandatory teleconference meetings, mentoring sessions, and the final national public webinar.

21. What is the final judging based on?

Energy savings, cost savings, level of innovation and technical merit, progress and successes, market potential, communications and professionalism throughout the competition.

Links of Interest